Mad Fashion

It may be the end of an era for a critically acclaimed TV series, but the show’s styling proves the apparel industry is always ready for rebirth.

I love these groovy styles from the September 1970 issue of Earnshaw’s.

I love these groovy styles from the September 1970 issue of Earnshaw’s.

Forgive me for indulging in a moment of fandom, but I can’t be the only one who is a touch too sad about bidding adieu to Mad Men, which ended its run last month. I’ll admit I never warmed up to the central character, Don Draper, but I always tuned in for the exquisite costuming and set design. Has there ever been a better retrospective on ’60s style?

After seven seasons of exploring that tumultuous decade, the show’s final moments, set in November of 1970, struck an optimistic note. (Fair warning: Spoilers ahead!) Advertising exec and creative guru Don is finally mellowing out at a hippie retreat on the California coast when the screen immediately cuts to another groovy scene: The iconic 1971 Coca-Cola “Hilltop” commercial. It came out before I was born, but in a testament to the power of advertising, I instantly began singing the jingle along with those young people from around the world. It’s irresistible. Who wouldn’t want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony—and of course, buy the world a Coke?

It was a perfect send-off for a show about advertising, but it was also a fitting finale for a series that, dare I say, had an equally large impact on fashion. When designer after designer sent ’70s-inspired looks down the Fall ’15 runways, they couldn’t have known how Mad Men would ultimately end, but it was clear its characters were all ready to leave the ’60s behind. Watching that final episode, I was struck by how almost every outfit would be perfectly on-trend today.

So I decided to put the Mad Men stylists to the Earnshaw’s test. After all, we have 100 years of fashion archives sitting right here in our office. Sure enough, our September, October and November issues from 1970 featured many of the same silhouettes and styles spotted on the cast (and on fall runways), from flared pants and fringe to ponchos and jumpsuits. In fact, our editors recently spotted so much ’70s-inspired style in kids’ collections that we dedicated our March Fall Fashion issue to the decade.

‘What goes around comes around’ may not be a new idea in the apparel world, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less valid. Shortly after that Coke commercial first aired, with its diverse array of men and women sporting peasant blouses and braids, an Earnshaw’s editor made this prediction in the September 1970 issue: “You’ll hear people talking about the peasant influence, the ethnic influence. What can I tell you? You’ve seen it before, bought it before, sold it before. And you’ll see it again, buy it again, sell it again.”

Still wise advice, 45 years later.


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